St. Edward’s has been “The Church in the Market Place” since 1410. The earliest church, or rather chapel of Romford, was in what is still known as the Oldchurch area and was first mentioned in 1177. Built near the river Rom then called Mercke-dych, it became too ruinous to use towards the end of the 14th century and the new church was built.
CHURCH OF 1410
The new church was built on the site of the present church. It was consecrated by the Bishop of St David’s, March 23rd 1410, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St Edward the Confessor; it consisted of a chancel, nave and North Aisle and was larger than the old Church by 28ft in length and 14ft in width. It had a brick tower with five bells (8 by 1800) and later there was a gallery at the west end, for the charity children.
On the South wall of the Chancel was placed the monument to Sir George Hervey, transferred on rebuilding to its present position in the porch. The monument to Anne Carew, his sister, is nearby. On the North Wall was the memorial to Sir Anthony Cooke, now scheduled as of national importance. It formerly stood over the vault at the East end of the North aisle, where the Lady Chapel then was.
The Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor, long used as the Parish Church at Romford, had fallen into such a state of decay by the early 19th Century, as to be unfit for the celebration of Divine Service. In due time it was decided to pull down the old Church, extend its foundations and build a larger church with a spire.
The old Church of St. Edward The Confessor
On Sunday 22nd April 1849, the last services were held. Three sermons were preached by: Reverend James Charles Blomfield, on "the Vicissitudes of the Church", Reverend Samuel Arnott, on “The Perpetuity of the Church”, Archdeacon Grant, on “Things Old and New”
The present church was built in 1849-50 on the site of the 15th century building. On Thursday 19th September 1850, the present church was consecrated by the Bishop of Rochester and dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St Edward the Confessor. The architect John Johnson designed the church in the decorated style that is a type of Gothic architecture used in this country in the Middle Ages. It is built mainly of Kentish Rag with Bath dressings.
The stained glass in the church is Victorian dating from the turn of the century, with the glass in the East and West windows being modern replacements following blast damage in the Second World War. Some of the memorials are from the earlier church of 1410 and were transferred to the new building in 1849-50.
The well-proportioned church consists of a nave with five bays with clerestory, north and south aisles, chancel, Lady Chapel and west gallery. Its dimensions are 81ft in length, 54ft in width and 55ft in height. Alternate clustered and octagonal columns, with finely carved foliated capitals, from one of which a little human peeps, support the arches of the nave and there is an occasional lion’s mask to be seen. It is interesting to note that of the materials used in the building of the church, some stone came from Nash's Quadrant in Regents Street, London, which was then being pulled down. Some was possibly from the old church, and this may account for the many carved corbels depicting the heads of Kings, Queens, Bishops, the Green Man, a veiled woman and sundry other heads with unusual head dresses. These have the air of the superb heritage found in our medieval churches. If these carvings were the work of a 19th century sculptor, he must have inherited the spirit of the masons of the 15th century. Two vestries were added in 1885.
In 1922 electric light replaced gas.
The church changed very little, until 1978 when the present organ was built on the gallery, at the west end of the church. It replaced an instrument that had been on the north side of the chancel.
In the summer of 1988, work was undertaken to the interior of the church, the pews were reconstructed to be free standing and a new floor and underfloor heating system was installed. These works were a huge step to prepare the building for the 21st century. The church was closed for several months and services were conducted in the Wykeham Hall.
The spire, 162ft high, underwent major repair work in 1992.
Exterior floodlighting was installed in 2000.
In 2001 the choir vestry was remodelled, this work was undertaken with a generous grant from The Pilling Trust, at the same time a lavatory with facilities for the disabled was constructed. Improvements were required to ensure that the church met the access requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act. The west door was modified and step free access is now available into the church.
In 2002 the pews were replaced by chairs. These were in turn replaced in 2018 by lightweight stackable chairs to enable more flexible use of our church space.
In 2010 the Archbishop of Canterbury dedicated the Commemorative York Stone in the centre aisle.
The maintenance and improvement work to the church is continuing. Defective masonry on the south elevation of the church has been replaced and the Hervey and Carew memorials in the south porch have been conserved. A carving of St. Edward the Confessor, carved by Ivor Livi in oak, has further enhanced the porch. In 2014 the names on the First World War Memorials in church were regilded to mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War.
BELLS - HISTORY
The tower, which is surmounted by a spire of 162ft, contains a peal of eight bells, all of which predate the present church by a considerable period.
The original church or chapel was built in 1410 and the existing tenor bell dates from this period, being ascribed to the London Founder Robert Burford. Robert died in 1418. Much of his work is to be found in Kent and Essex.
It appeared that there were six bells and a sanctus bell in 1552, when the inventories of church goods were made in the sixth year of the reigh on King Edward VI. At that time, the tenor bell was used as an hour for the clock, as it is today nearly 500 years later. The present treble bell by Lester and Pack of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry is dated 1756 and must have been recast as The Royal Society of Cumberland Youths rang a peal on eight bells in the tower in 1753.
The second bell has John Darbie of Ipswich’s lettering but as Darbie was not known to have cast bells before 1657 (although there are many of his bells in East Anglia and this bell is dated 1651), it may have been cast by a predecessor of Darbie. It seems likely that Romford had a peal of eight bells from this time and if so, was one of the earliest eight bell towers in the country.
The third bell was cast by an itinerant founder, John Waylet. It is therefore possible that this bell as cast in the churchyard, although there is also some evidence to suggest that the bell was cast at Bishop’s Stortford.
The Graye family of Colchester were founders between 1600 and 1686. Bells 4, 6 and 7 are understood to have been cast by Miles Graye II.
The fifth bell was recast in 1850 by Charles and George Mears, also of Whitechapel Bell Foundry, at the time the present church was built. The Reverend E. Fox writing about this time said that the predecessor of the fifth bell was inscribed “The Bachelors of Romford made me 1578”, however, most of his manuscripts were inaccurate and this information may be unreliable.
The bells were re-hung in 1877 and again in 1922, lower in the tower, when John Warner and Co. of Cripplegate installed the present frame work. The treble bell was rehung on ball bearings in 1958 and the remainder of the peal in 1971 on both occasions by Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
Four Clock bells, cast by Gillett and Johnson of Croydon, in 1945, are hung above the ring and strikes the Cambridge Quarters (Westminster Quarters), with the tenor bell striking the hour. A new clock also by Gillett and Johnson was present at the same time as replacing a clock of 1759 vintage.
In 2008 the bells were re-hung in their present frame, with new fixtures and fittings. A Restoration Appeal was launched and we are grateful to all those who have supported the appeal, members of the congregation, bell ringers and grants amounting to £12,000 from The Pilgrim Trust, The Essex Association of Bell Ringers Restoration Fund and the Tovell Bequest. The bells themselves were cleaned and the cast-in crown staples were removed from all bells.